The Score: Friend or Foe?

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The multiple editions of a piece can confuse a musician. Should we always work from an urtext edition in an attempt to access the composer’s most authentic voice? Or can edited versions with interpretative markings be helpful? Cellist Pedro de Alcantara guides us through this minefield

Look at the autograph score by Bach in figure 1. It shows the first movement of his Solo Violin Sonata in G minor BWV1001. Apart from what’s in the score, the simple fact that we have physical evidence of a life lived three centuries ago is amazing. As it happens, the life in question was unfathomably great. To look at a page from a Bach autograph is to witness the phenomenon of immortality. Your job as a player is to take that page and translate it into gestures and sounds – intervals, fingerings, bow strokes. Whether you’re on stage or in your practice room, you’ll become an agent of Bach’s immortality, and by extension an agent of immortality itself. It’s a big responsibility…

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